Yesterday I read a post by Jesse Stay entitled “Hey businesses, you’re using Facebook wrong”. Let me start off by saying I have a lot of respect for the author. I think Jesse is right about the power that Facebook can bring in the interaction between your brand and a customer. However, I don’t agree with the ‘reasons why’ provided.
Let’s look at some quotes (I’ll provide my own thoughts below):
Now, let’s get a little deeper. Facebook Connect, with the help and just a few hours time of one of your own coders, can take your existing database of users and find out how many of them are already Facebook users. My bet is most of them are (remember, there are near 300 million Facebook users on the planet!). Now you can prompt those users to begin telling their friends about your brand to their closest friends and relatives, using just the tools Facebook provides, ALL ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE. Oh, and even better – unlike Twitter, your users never, ever, leave your website when authenticating with Facebook. You simply won’t get that intimacy between your brand and customers on Twitter.
I reread this part a few times in order to see if I understood it correctly. I read “Brand intimacy is defined by people never, ever leaving your website. Your ability to prompt them to start discussing your brand with their closest friends, ALL ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE”. While the mechanics may be correct (you can get access to lots of relevant user data), the brand intimacy part feels all wrong (see below).
Twitter pales in comparison to what Facebook can do for businesses. The majority of businesses are just using Facebook wrong. If you manage a business’s marketing or brand management campaign and only have a Facebook Page, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. The power of Facebook isn’t about Facebook itself, but about the vast set of APIs Facebook is providing to you and your business to get your brand into the most valuable place of all – that intimate setting between a customer and their close friends and family. You can’t do that with Twitter. You can with Facebook. This is why if Twitter is worth $5 billion, Facebook is worth at least 2 or 3 or more times that. Your business needs to get in and use Facebook right if you’re going to stay ahead of the game.
The essential message seems to be “The power of Facebook, [… stuff deleted…] , is providing to you and your business to get your brand into the most valuable place of all – that intimate setting between a customer and their close friends and family”. This is definitely a marketers wet dream. However, if executed poorly I fail to see how forcing your brand into that relation is worth anything. It would backfire and create damage that cannot be restored easily.
There are a lot of comments on the post, here is a reply that the author writes to one of the comments. I isolated this comment because I don’t agree with the observation it starts with:
John, Businesses don’t care about clutter. They care about what makes them money. The fact is the intimate connections Facebook Connect fosters when compared to Twitters are a far cry from the connections that can be facilitated through Twitter. If you know how to hit that sweet spot through Facebook, you’ll make much more than you do on Twitter. I speak through experience, with proven results. Twitter has its place, but as far as revenue goes, you’ll have far greater success on Facebook for pure revenue, so long as you do it the right way, which includes a proper utilization of Facebook Connect.
After reading the entire post I ended up feeling that Jesse is mixing up mechanics and opportunity (leveraging the Facebook platform) with execution (being successful). I could very well misinterpret what he meant. My personal view is that brand intimacy isn’t reached by locking in your users. It isn’t reached by prompting your customers to discuss you brand with their friends. Positioning your brand between a customer and their close family and friends is putting a very larger commercial burden on the most important relationship in life, family and friends.
It’s true that Facebook has your customer’s social graph. It can open this (privacy sensitive) information to 3rd parties. Just because you can get your hands on that information doesn’t imply that you can leverage that to your advantage. The fact that Facebook provides the infrastructure and data doesn’t make your instantly successful towards those that visit your site, or their family and friends.
Before you can create a sustainable revenue-generating business you need to focus on user value first. Make sure the users that visit you and your site receive so much value that they will voluntarily return. Wouldn’t that be more powerful than locking them in? Make them love your service or product. If you can do that, then connecting that experience to Facebook makes sense.
But then that experience will be user-driven, adding value for the user. You won’t push your brand into a customer’s intimate network of family and friends. They will voluntarily pull your brand into their network. It’s the difference between web 1.0 and web 2.0, walled gardens and open networks, brand display and brand engagement, customer lock-in and customer freedom, push instead of pull.
Maybe that is what the original post was really about. I would have agreed in full then. Brands do not dominate communities because they force their way in. Brands dominate because they get pulled into that community. And Facebook can help strengthen that pull effect, once it is there. But somehow that message got lost for me in the “leverage the Facebook platform to grow and make revenues” message.